Even as Slumdog Millionaire continues to reap awards and greater glory in its heady race to the Oscars, some folks have slammed the movie as vastly inferior to, and even a copy of, the critically acclaimed Brazilian film Cidade de Deus (a Portuguese language movie released in 2002).
Not a Copy
No, Slumdog Millionaire is not a copy of Cidade de Deus a.k.a. City of God although tis’ true that both are fast-paced movies set amidst the grinding poverty of wretched urban slums that inevitably turn into noxious breeding swamps for seething anger and frequent eruptions of violence caused by guns, drugs, gang warfare, police corruption and total neglect by the political leadership.
Both movies show the horrifying reality of the unfortunate kids living subhuman lives in slums.
In Slumdog Millionaire, these kids are forced into prostitution or maimed into blindness by acid and forced toÂ work as beggars while in Cidade de Deus, the young kids turn into monsters shooting and looting stores in the slums at will. As the bunch of runts talk among themselves toward the end of Cidade de Deus:
Have you heard of the Red Brigades?
No, but if they come we’ll kill them too.
Let’s make a blacklist. We’ll kill them all.
Paisa Vasool, Bhai
After watching these two gritty movies set amidst the slums of Rio de Janeiro and Mumbai, our verdict is that both provide a worthy return on time and money invested.
Here comes the big question – Is one better than the other? To us, the answer is a resounding No although others have different opinions.
De gustibus non est disputandum.
Cidade de Deus – Superior Acting
Of course, there are differences between the two movies.
Overall, you get to see a much better quality of acting in Cidade de Deus.
In Slumdog Millionaire, the kids are delightful but their older versions Dev Patel and Freida Pinto are embarrassingly mediocre.
Cidade de Deus is also more realistic fare compared to Slumdog Millionaire, which is heavily influenced by the Bollywood trappings of lasting love, escapist Indian insistence on a happy ending in movies no matter the depressing reality outside the movie hall and wildly fantastic scenes such as that of a young boy jumping into a cesspool for a glimpse of Amitabh Bachchan.
Whether it’s the violence, the setting, the gangwars or the story-line itself, Cidade de Deus is a far more realistic and plausible account of life in a slum.
But then there’s greater drama in Slumdog Millionaire.
Also, as the kids grow up, we see little of the slums inÂ Slumdog Millionaire but in Cidade de Deus the favelas or slums constitute the background for the whole movie.
Issue of Focus
There are other important differences too between the two movies.
In Slumdog Millionaire, the focus is for the most part on the slumdog andÂ chaiwallah Jamal as his life story is narrated in flashback via the novel technique of his correct answers in a quiz-show.
But Cidade de Deus has several stories (focused on the narrator Rocket and other characters like Li’l Ze, Benny, Diago, Shaggy, Knockout Ned and to a lesser extent on Shorty and Carrot) that might bore some folks and mislead them into thinking that the movie is unfocused.
However, we don’t think Cidade de Deus is boring at all because this collage of different but connected individuals in the slums also has a larger life of its own.
Given the familiar settings and language issues, it’s no surprise then that Indian moviegoers will find Slumdog Millionaire more appealing (truth be said we’d be surprised if even 0.001% of Indian moviegoers have heard of Cidade de Deus).
If you live in the U.S., Cidade de Deus is available with English subtitles at Blockbuster stores or the DVD rental service Netflix.
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